Delegating is an art, and one that most business owners find very difficult to learn, says business coach Holly Jerome. In fact, it may often seem that being a good business owner and being a good delegator are contradictory.

But learning to blend the two is the skill that could make the difference between success and failure.

Jerome, whose business, ActionCoach, is based at 3 Sutton Lane in Princeton Junction, will present “Successful Outsourcing and Delegating” at the Mercer chapter of NJAWBO on Wednesday, April 13, at 6 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel. Cost: $45. Visit www.njawbomercer.org.

Jerome joined the Action International (parent company of ActionCoach) franchise five years ago, after spending 16 years working for two pharmaceutical companies, Roche Diagnostics and Covance. She graduated in the early 1980s with a bachelor’s in biochemistry from Columbia University. “Throughout my corporate career I learned about many different areas of business, often because my mentors understood me and continued to suggest new areas where I could learn,” she says.

Her first position was in research, but she moved to program management, “an area I never thought I’d be good in until I tried it,” she says. Over the years she also held positions in marketing, sales, and corporate communications — all areas that helped her to develop her coaching skills while leading her co-workers and teams to achieve their goals.

In these roles she often led re-engineering projects designed to increase sales and improve product launches and created a specialized sales force to better target a select marketplace.

“As a business coach, I help clients reach their goals through a wide variety of tried and tested techniques and strategies that have proven effective in virtually any business or industry and will bring measurable results,” she says. These include increased cash flow and profitability, better time management, improved employee productivity, and a better quality of life for the business owner.

Jerome volunteers at several organizations in the state and is the president-elect of the statewide NJAWBO organization. So what has all this experience taught her?

You can’t do it all. But how does a person choose which tasks to keep and which to give away? “Every business owner has strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “We can’t all be good at bookkeeping, payroll, marketing, human resources, sales, and production.” These are often the first tasks that a business owner should think about “giving away.”

#b#What to get rid of#/b#. Business owners often feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they do — and just as overwhelmed by the thought of choosing what not to do. Jerome suggests keeping track of the tasks that you do each day for two weeks, then dividing them into categories according to your skills, interest, and time. “In a perfect world we would only do what we are best at and enjoy and delegate everything we hate and are not good at,” she says.

Life is never perfect, of course, so all of us end up doing some tasks that are either low on the talent or love side of the grid. But once you have identified which tasks are the lowest on the grid it becomes easier to decide what to hire out.

#b#Outsourcing vs. delegating#/b#. There are two ways to for small business owners to do this: delegating and outsourcing, and most come up with a solution that blends the two into a combination of employees, freelance workers, and hired-out service businesses.

Jerome says that outsourcing differs from delegating in that when you outsource you hire another company to do the job, say payroll processing, for you. The business owner turns over the task to the other company and does not tell that company how to do it.

Delegating is more complex. The art of delegating effectively depends in large part on being a good communicator, she says. After you have chosen the person to whom you will delegate the task, you must first explain exactly what you want and the timeline in which it needs to be accomplished. Then you should step back and allow the person to complete the task while you, as the boss, “keep your fingers on it, not in it,” she says.

That can be much more difficult than it sounds. “Keeping your fingers on it” means making sure that you check on the progress, give approvals, or help the person change course as needed, she says. You do not take over the project or micro-manage it.

The most important point about delegating for any business owner to remember is to just do it. Too often a person will think, “it will take me 15 minutes to explain this project to someone when I could do it in five,” Jerome says. The fallacy is that “it may take 15 minutes to explain it today, but if it is a recurring task, you will then have delegated it to someone else and will not have to continue spending those five minutes on it daily or weekly. And those few minutes start to add up.”

The trap that so many business owners fall into, she says, is “the one where they feel that their business is their baby and that no one else can do anything in it as well as they can.” That is a self-limiting thought. Studies have shown that the more a business owner takes on himself, the less the business will grow. There are only 24 hours in a day. If only one person is doing everything, it can’t all get done — or done well. “The bottom line is that if a business owner doesn’t learn to delegate, the business will never grow larger,” says Jerome.

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